St. Margaret Mary School turns from tears to dancing - Catholic Courier

St. Margaret Mary School turns from tears to dancing

IRONDEQUOIT — Following a liturgical dance performed by students clad in St. Margaret Mary School uniforms, the 11:15 a.m. June 1 Mass at St. Margaret Mary Church ended with parishioners singing the lyrically appropriate hymn “City of God.”

“May our tears be turned into dancing,” parishioners sang in reference to the 78-year-old school, one of 13 diocesan-operated Catholic schools in Monroe County that is closing this month.

The Mass and subsequent reception in the school gave alumni, parents and friends of St. Margaret Mary School a chance to take a final tour of the building and to reminisce and reconnect.

“Although the doors of St. Margaret Mary will close on June 30, the spirit of the community will always remain in our hearts,” said Principal Martin Swenson, who had become principal of the school in August 2007 after retiring as superintendent of Fabius-Pompey Central School District near Syracuse.

One of the aspects highlighted during the event was the dedication of the school’s teachers. Father Tim Horan, pastor of St. Margaret Mary, pointed out during Mass that Catholic-school teachers earn 40 to 45 percent less than public-school teachers with equivalent experience and education.

“This says something remarkable that these men and women are willing to sacrifice huge sums of money for the sake of these children who they love and cherish,” he said.

In addition to current faculty and staff, the event drew former teachers and administrators, including the former principal School Sister of Notre Dame Janice Nadeau. Sister Nadeau noted that St. Margaret Mary School officials worked in partnership with parents.

“The parents were very supportive and helped out with everything we did,” Sister Nadeau said during the reception. The school added a prekindergarten, computers and a playground during her nine-year tenure from 1976-85, she noted.

The playground was one of the school features fondly remembered by John Finn, Class of 1999. He said the school’s former playground, which was later replaced, was so well-liked that kids from other schools would show up to play on it.

“For everyone who has gone here, the first thing they say is how great the St. Margaret Mary playground was,” said Finn, 21, a student at State University of New York College at Geneseo.

Finn said his experience at the school was so positive that he set up a Web page on the Facebook social-networking site for all current and former St. Margaret Mary students. More than 100 people have joined the group.

“It’s just been growing and growing,” he said.

Third-grader Sarina Schindler, who will attend St. John Neumann School on the Irondequoit-Rochester border next year, is preparing for her upcoming change in scenery. She recently learned that some of her friends and teachers will be moving to the school as well.

“I’ve been sad that school is closing, but I’m going to make new friends next year,” Sarina said.

Fifth-grader Haley Fisher, who will attend Rogers Middle School in the West Irondequoit district next year, said her favorite memories of St. Margaret Mary School will be the teachers and art class.

“The teachers rock,” agreed Zoe Ellison, a fifth-grader who will attend St. John Neumann next year.

The first teachers at St. Margaret Mary were the Franciscan Sisters of Allegany, who served the school from 1930-62. After that order withdrew from the school, they were replaced by School Sisters of Notre Dame, other women religious and lay teachers.

Through the mid-1960s, the school experienced rapid growth and expanded several times. A new wing of classrooms was built in 1947, and more classrooms, meeting rooms and a cafeteria were added in 1957, allowing the school to accommodate nearly 900 pupils, according to St. Margaret Mary Church’s Web site.

Carol Hyde Bonczyk of Webster, a parishioner of St. Rita Church in Webster and a Class of 1950 graduate, recalled having 60 students in her eighth-grade class.

“I remember playing basketball in here,” Bonczyk said during the reception, which took place in the school gym. “The gym was the same.”

The gym also doubled as an auditorium, in which students would watch such movies as 1940’s “Kit Carson” on Friday afternoons, recalled Pat Harvey Lill, a 1943 graduate and a parishioner of Irondequoit’s St. Thomas the Apostle Church.

Ann Foery of Irondequoit, a St. Margaret Mary parishioner for 68 years, said her three children all went to the school and that she spent her free time volunteering there. She recalled walking door to door for a fundraising drive to raise money for a school expansion.

“We worked so hard to get this building,” Foery said. “I remember wearing blisters on my feet going out for it.”

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